The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has withdrawn its appeal against the Calcutta High Court order granting the liberty of house arrest to four senior All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders in the Narada bribery case.
On May 21, the Calcutta High Court had said, “Considering the age and health issues of the accused, three of whom are said to be admitted in hospital, instead of custody in jail, all the accused persons can be put under house arrest in their own homes.”
Justices Vineet Saran and BR Gavai opined during the hearing that the “liberty of a person is the first thing to be seen” and that the issue of personal liberty cannot be mixed with other issues such as Chief Minister’s dharna and public protests against the CBI arrests, reported LiveLaw.
The Bench clarified that all other parties also have liberty to raise such contentions before it, and that their order to allow CBI to withdraw their appeal was not based on merits. Bar & Bench quoted the Bench saying, “We are not passing anything on merits. SG (Tushar Mehta) has accepted that the issues are being looked into by a 5-judge bench of Calcutta High Court. Thus, permission is sought to withdraw the plea and raise all such issues before the High Court. All other contentions remain open. All other parties shall also have liberty to raise such contentions before the High Court. It is clarified that we are not passing any order on merits.”
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta (appearing for CBI), reportedly contended that the conduct of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and other top leaders of TMC after the CBI arrested Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee, had ‘vitiated the atmosphere’ and the order of special CBI court granting bail could not be sustained on that ground. Mamata Banerjee had visited the Nizam Plaza office of the CBI and stayed there till the men were granted bail by a special CBI court. On the same day, CBI moved the Calcutta High Court, and the High Court stayed the CBI court’s bail order.
The top court Bench, however, disagreed with the Solicitor General stating that those incidents involving actions of TMC ministers have to be seen separately and cannot influence grant of bail to the accused.
Bar & Bench quoted Justice Gavai saying, “We have to see if bail has to be granted or not. For other issues, other remedies are there. Take action against such officials. We also have been pressured. I was hearing an anticipatory bail plea in Aurangabad in 2013 and mahila morcha people came inside court…police asked me not to pass orders but I passed orders in an open courtroom.”
The Calcutta High Court has been hearing this matter since May 19 and since the judges on the Division Bench, Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee, disagreed on the issue of grant of interim bail to the four accused leaders, it decided to refer the matter to a larger Bench for consideration.
In the meanwhile, the Division Bench directed that the four TMC leaders be placed under house arrest, directing, “During their house arrest, while being in home comfort, they shall be entitled to all medical facilities and shall be bound by all applicable restrictions, however, it shall be the duty of the jail authorities in the State to enforce the conditions.”
The jail authorities have also been directed to instal CCTV cameras at the entry point of the houses in which the accused persons reside and the recordings shall be kept for record to ascertain the persons who visit the accused.